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SCUBAPRO SUNDAY – The Real USMC Birthday

It’s a fact that most Marines are probably unaware of but a fact nonetheless, according to the Marine Corps History Division, which records the service’s official institutional and operational history.

The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution establishing two Continental Marines battalions on November 10, 1775, which the Corps now celebrates as its official birthday, marking 247 years of existence.

But as the History Division notes in its Brief History of the United States Marine Corps, the Continental Marine Corps was disbanded after the Revolutionary War “for reasons of the economy” in 1783 and ceased to exist for the next 15 years.

“The government auctioned off warships, and the Continental Marines ceased to exist,” military historian Chester Hearn told The Camp Pendleton Patch. “Major Samuel Nicholas, the first Marine officer, returned to his former occupation as owner of Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.”

It wasn’t until July 11, 1798, that Congress established a service known as the United States Marine Corps under the command of the Navy. The act passed by the 5th Congress and signed into law by President John Adams created the nearly 900-man strong Marine Corps, which consisted of one major, four captains, 28 lieutenants, about 100 sergeants, and corporals, and more than 700 privates.

And for the next 123 years, the Marine Corps recognized its birthday as July 11. As the History Division notes, “an unidentified newspaper clipping from 1918 refers to the celebration of the 120th birthday of the Marine Corps on July 11 ‘as usual with no fuss.'”

Then, in 1921, the good idea fairy caught the attention of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. John A. Lejeune, and suggested the service celebrate its earlier birthdate despite that 15-year gap. From the History Division:On October 21, 1921, Maj Edwin McClellan, Officer-in-Charge, Historical Section, Headquarters Marine Corps, sent a memorandum to Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune, suggesting the actual birthday on November 10, 1775, be declared a Marine Corps holiday to be celebrated throughout the Corps. Maj McClellan further suggested that a dinner be held in Washington D.C. to commemorate the event. Guests would include prominent men from the Marine Corps, Army, and Navy, and descendants of the Revolution.

Accordingly, on November 1, 1921, Maj Gen Lejeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921. The order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps and directed that it be read to every command on November 10 each subsequent year in honor of the birthday of the Marine Corps. This order has been duly carried out.

Hey, look on the bright side: now you can get drunk and celebrate the birth of the Marine Corps twice a year. So, Semper Fidelis and Happy Early birthday!

One Response to “SCUBAPRO SUNDAY – The Real USMC Birthday”

  1. Devil Dog 123 says:

    Thanks for that insightful post. Will be sure to pass it along.